Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Perils of Insta-Music (Down with downloading)

The downloading of music -both legal and illegal- is quickly and efficiently destroying the entire independent music scene throughout the US and abroad.

As a musician, a former record store clerk, a former record store owner, and a consumer boasting a collection of hundreds of CD’s and LP’s combined, I have witnessed firsthand the gradual, yet incredibly steep decline of today’s music scene.

Our desire for instant gratification far out-weighs our willingness to stop and pay attention to any thought, sound, or idea that may seem foreign to us, thus taking away any initiative to think independently. This is the problem with downloadable music. If you do not immediately identify in every way, shape and form to the sound and idea that is currently being presented, you are just a click away from listening to any of the 40,000 songs that are able to occupy your 80 gigabyte I-Pod.

While my experiences working at independent record stores are some of my fondest career related memories of my life (not that its strong competition), it is in turn, peppered by sadness.

As a former record store owner, I had the ability to help people get turned onto new and old sounds from around the world. Unfortunately, this was before having to close the doors due to the insistence of my landlord that I be able to afford the monthly rent.

I’ve witnessed firsthand the devastation that can occur to CD sales when a company can sell downloads of music for a few dollars cheaper than a physical manifestation of the sound. Countless independent record stores around the country, even the world have now closed due to a lack of sales, and it has had a devastating impact on the music scene at large.

Independent record stores are the heart of the music scene. When attempting to confront the massive bulk that is today’s music industry, there is no company online, or in any ultra-mega mart that requires the merchant to know the nuances of the artists, genres, and origins of songs the way that they do. Additionally, if a local band wants to promote an upcoming show, they cannot turn to “Napster” for help, however they are almost always welcome (and often encouraged) to post a poster or flyers at their local store.

But record stores are not the only effected by downloading. Gone are the days of the Woody Guthrie’s, the Bob Dylan‘s, and the John Lennon‘s. The new “voice of a generation” is little more than a shrill wail let loose by whatever band happens to be promoted on the “I-Tunes” home page that week. When music has to be instantly marketable to the masses in order to turn a profit, there is no room for deviation from the standard blueprint. The result? New, raw talent is not only overlooked, but also discouraged.

Another less visible, but equally debilitating issue created by downloading is the ease of obtaining hard to find music. This may sound as more of a blessing than curse, but the premise is simple: The harder you work to obtain anything in life, the more you value it. In previous generations, collectors would plow through hundreds of records to find that one hard to find song on some out of print record label. Now you are just two clicks and $9.99 away from the “Lost Sessions” of any given artist. When rare music is at your fingertips at any given point, the hunt for it is lost, and in so, it loses a bit of its significance.

Unfortunately for true music enthusiasts, there is no end in sight. As downloadable music sales continue to rise, CD sales also continue to plummet. Music is quickly becoming little more than a combination of 0’s and 1’s stored some massive data bank, owned by some corporate greedhead living in a private community that you would be immediately shot on site for entering. Video did in fact NOT kill the radio star, the bloody knife rests in our own pockets, next to our I-Pod.

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